There will be a community safety meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Friendship Chamberlain Elementary (1345 Potomac Avenue SE). The meeting is organized by neighbors with the assistance of the Office of Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D).
Allen will attend and moderate the meeting. Also in attendance will be neighbors and representatives from Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) and the Office of Gun Violence Prevention. It is an opportunity for residents to ask questions and to share ideas for to improve safety at the Potomac Ave Metro Station and in the surrounding area.
The meeting comes in the wake of a shooting the morning of Feb. 1 at Potomac Metro Station. 31-year-old Isaiah Trotman killed 64-year-old metro employee Robert Cunningham. Trotman shot two other people and a fourth person suffered lacerations before bystanders disarmed him and tackled him to the ground. Police arrested him on the scene.
Discussion at MPD Community Advisory Meeting
It is not the first meeting to focus on the metro station shooting. It was also the topic of the MPD First District Community Advisory Council Meeting Tuesday, Feb. 6. At that meeting, MTPD said that Potomac Metro Station has not been identified by Metro as a “hot spot” for crime.
In general, MTPD chooses areas of focus based on their crime data and community input, the meeting heard. The station was not previously an area of focus and by itself, last week’s shooting is not expected to affect that status, MTPD said. However, MTPD, which has jurisdiction over the rail and bus system as well as facilities, said there are plans to expand overall coverage across the system.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Matt LaFortune (6B09) has represented residents in the area since January. He has been part of the community efforts to address safety concerns expressed by neighbors prior to the shooting.
“While I appreciate the transparency about how our local station compares to others in the system, a number of neighbors have requested that MTPD position an officer at Potomac Avenue during the morning and evening rush hours and I’ve echoed that request in conversations with MPD and Metro Transit,” said LaFortune.
Update: At a 4 p.m. press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and Metro GM Randy Clark announced a partnership between WMATA and MPD. Additional MPD officers will be placed at key Metro Station during morning and afternoon commutes. However, the list of stations included during this first phase, which begins next week, and last until June, does not include Potomac Metro Station. The first patrols, according to the mayor’s office selected based on crime data, will be deployed at Metro Center, Gallery Place, Georgia Ave – Petworth, Congress Heights, and Union Station.
Asked why Potomac Avenue metro station was not included in that list, Clark said that one MTPD officer is assigned to duty at Potomac Avenue Station from open to close already.
Clarke emphasized that the Metro-MPD partnership is a supplemental program created because there are insufficient number of MPTD officers in staff to cover the system. “There are a lot of other stations that are looking for police presence,” Clarke said, including Potomac and also Fort Totten in his list. The Metro GM said one problem was resources; there are currently 79 positions vacant at MTPD.
A week prior to the metro station shooting, neighbors held a public safety meeting with Allen, noted LaFortune. Three shootings took place in the area between November 1 and the end of January. After a Jan. 2nd shooting, neighbors moved to address concerns with local government. The Feb. 1 metro shooting has moved things further and faster, the commissioner added.
Potomac Metro Staton was the site of a fatal stabbing in April 2019. A 40-year-old man died after he was repeatedly stabbed and robbed. Police sought two teenagers in that case. At least one was arrested.
Neighbors are asking for an increased MTPD presence in the area, LaFortune said. They are also looking to establish a Safe Passage presence at the plaza, which is located near the site of four elementary schools.
Activate the Site
LaFortune said that neighbors have also been discussing ways to activate the site. That could include community barbecues, city service provision. The site has also been proposed as a location for interim library services when the Southeast Library closes for modernization this summer.
Improvements to the plaza were part of a 2016 community benefit agreement made with the community through ANC 6B as part of residential projects located within a two-block radius of the Potomac Metro Station. Those developments included The Lockwood (1339 E St. SE), Watkins Alley (1309-1323 E St. SE) and The Blackbird (1401 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) with developers from Insight Property Group, Ditto Residential and May Riegler. Initial community meetings were held on improvements in 2019, but have not yet resumed post-pandemic. Representatives from developers did not respond to inquiries about the status of this benefit in time for publication.
Organizers are working on a virtual option for the Feb. 9 public safety meeting, but those details have not yet been finalized. If a virtual option is provided information will be updated here.